CHAPTER 6A: Drunk History Lessons
“Puta imprudente casi nos cuesta la vida,” shouted Mikael along with other profane words that vibrated through the door as Paolo shut it behind, leaving him and Isabelle screaming at each other.
At the bedroom, Paolo laid two cups of warm milk on the table. “I apologize for the two. They get so loud when expressing their love for each other.” He handed one to William opposite him and sat down.
William sipped the milk and let it bring heat to his shivering body. “Do they always get like that?” he asked.
Removing the cup from his mouth, he mused, “Nothing to worry about really. It’s normal.”
He tear himself from staring at the door and focused back on Elise as she lay on the bed asleep. There were dark marks on her neck and wrists, proof of the hurdle she had overcome. At the very start, William didn’t believe her to be a witch. Not even that it exists. But after what he had seen, heard and experienced, he wasn’t so sure about anything anymore. Maybe there were more mysteries in this life than his father’s deathly encounters.
“She’ll be fine,” Paolo broke the silence. “Her soul wasn’t touched so her body will recover normally. But her mind…not too sure about that.”
“What do you mean?” He had a lump on his throat.
“She almost died. Her queen betrayed her. Her loved ones abandoned her. Most people would breakdown and be in shock. It might take her days to recover.”
“As long as she heals, it doesn’t matter how long,” he found himself saying. He started making a plan for her: He would ask Radulf to house Elise for a time when this place becomes unavailable. There was enough space in the house for at least one more occupant. But if he says no, that would be difficult. But then again, he could always hide her in the basement. Or in the stables and hand her food and other necessities.
“How about you?”
“You said this was all new to you?” Paolo asked with a gesture of his hand.
His sight lowered to the wooden floors. “It is. I do not understand any of it. There are things that I thought were impossible and things that I thought may happen. And there are things I thought were magic and things that are miracles…what I’ve seen today…what are those things? Those dark men?” He looked up at him with inquisitive eyes.
“Those men are not men,” declared Paolo sternly. “Those are demons shaped like men with monsters for an appetite. They destroy anything in their path and eat any soul they come upon.”
“Where did they come from?”
He sipped another drink and placed it down. “Another world.”
“Another world? That sounds—“
“Ludicrous I know,” cut Paolo. “But it is what it is. Nobody actually knows where they come from. Or what their world is like. All people know is that when the Cloak arrives, they come with it.”
“Let me save your breath for you.” He held up a hand before he could speak a word more. “The Cloak is a happening much like a rain or a snow would occur. It is as natural as the sun would shine on a day and the moon at night. The only difference is that like other natural occurrences, it brings disaster with it. When the Cloak comes and envelopes a place, a town, a village, like it had before, it stops time. Everything and everyone is frozen in that moment. Like they have been sung a lullaby, the only difference is they are still awake. When it arrives, that solely means that demons arrive with it. They prey on any human with a soul and devour it. Like any living thing, they come to eat.
“When they are done—or more usually—when there are no more lives left, they leave, leaving the empty bodies on the ground. As the Cloak leaves, they take the corpses with them to who-knows-where. The Cloak protects and hides the damonens from mortals, so if eaten, they wouldn’t feel the pain.”
William’s interest glided on one word. “And how about settlers?” He had heard the three of them talk about settlers on their way back.
“Aaah, so the nugget-head doesn’t all have nuggets in his head,” a sly grin appeared on Paolo’s face. “Settlers are vastly different from mortals. They are exceptions, a different race if you will. Like an Egyptian, a Chinese, a Spaniard and an Englishman. All people from different parts of the world, but still human.”
“So where are they from?”
Paolo opened his mouth to speak but then shut it again and smiled. He went out of the room for a moment, and when he came back, he had, in his hands, a mandolin. He raised a hand gracefully in the air, strummed the strings and started in song:
From whence the firsts had past and men grew children and hunted for meals
A red sky appeared and bathed their lives with cloaked kills
Shadows devoured and sang in pleasure while men agonized in silent whimpers
But after every vanishing deaths, came creatures of beauty and powers
Some say they are angels, devils or even gods
They came with no knowledge of this world or where they have been
All they yearn is to procreate and increase their odds
And the sons they bore was masked in different skin
One that is neither god nor mortal, but better
A joining of both, a creature called settler
When he finished, Paolo made a content smile. “Songs always brings a woman closer to you. Especially if it’s from the heart, remember that.”
Brushing the last comment aside, William asked, “Then the first settlers came from the Cloak as well?”
“As my mother had sung to me and her mother has to her and her mother to her.” He placed the mandolin down and sat on the chair.
William thought if the damonens came with the Cloak, and so did the forefathers of settlers, then would that mean that the settlers were sons and daughters of demons as well? He considered asking that question, but he didn’t want to sound rude or inappropriate. So he asked, “Why does the priest hate you?”
“Hate?” snorted Paolo. “The priest doesn’t hate us. The priest despises us. The Catholic Church believes that all settlers are fruits of damonens. They think we’re all demons.”
His focus slowly turned to his. “So…are you?”
He returned his question with a blank look. “Once again, it popped back into a real nugget-head. Do I look like I eat humans for breakfast?”
“There it is. Anything else infesting your brain besides maggots?”
“Just one more thing,” he added. “If the settlers are the only people who can move through the Cloak, then how come the priest can move in it too?“
The door opened and Mikael came in with a reddened face and ale in hand. “Have you asked him yet?”
“Ask about what?” asked Paolo.
“What kind is he.” He threw a gulp in his mouth and placed the cup down the table.
“I was just getting there.”
He shifted his big brown eyes to William. “So what are you lad? A mystic? An animus? Nephilim?” asked Mikael.
William searched for Paolo for an answer.
“Balls.” Mikael drank another gulp. “Let me make it easier. Do you read minds? Change into a skunk? Or a camel?”
He shook his head. “I don’t…are you—I’m not. Am I?”
Paolo snitched Mikael’s ale and drank some. “I don’t think he knows. He is oblivious to the obvious. Imagine a settler not knowing what a Cloak was?”
Mikael hit his cousin on the head and grabbed his ale back. “So what is he then? Doesn’t look like a nephilim. A nephilim would know what a Cloak was since it was born with all the mind stuff.”
“Excuse me,” said William.
“How about a minstrael like us?” asked Paolo to Mikael.
“A minstrael?” asked Mikael. “I don’t think the boy has ever picked up an instrument in his life.”
“Sirs,” said William with a louder voice.
“Animus then?” continued Paolo.
“He should have changed when he was attacked by a damonen,” suggested Mikael. “It’s their basic nature to change.”
“Aha,” said Paolo aloud. “A laquenta.”
“Laquenta?” asked Mikael with a raised brow. “Tonto. Laquentas have been extinct for a century already.”
“But ponder on it,” he insisted. “The boy doesn’t have abilities, but he can walk through the Cloak. Laquentas don’t have special abilities like he does.”
William rose to his foot and slammed the table with both of his hands. “Sirs, I beg you not to converse of me so casually while I am here in front of you. Let me make it clear: I am not a demon, I am not a damonen and I am most certainly NOT a settler.”
Paolo parted his lips to speak but Mikael put a hand to his shoulder and said, “Lad, your eyes can see demons eating souls, your skin feels the heavy air when they come, your body motions through a frozen moment in time; tell me if you are not a settler then what are you? Only a demon can do so otherwise. And you are no demon.”
“What about the priest? What is he? I might be the same as he,” he quickly said.
“Has the pope blessed you? Do you ask for God’s help? Can you bring forth swords of light at your will? Do you call upon God’s judgment to cast your own?”
“No,” he said uncertainly.
“Then you are not alike.”
“You said you have family before.”
“A father,” he breathed out.
“Can your father perform certain abilities that you do not see from others? Are you not allowed to speak of anything or ask questions when he does something you do not understand?”
Those moments and glimpses of deathly wonders he had seen. All those times he thought his father was a grand magician. He never had thought that there was another name for a magician. And that the real possibility that he might be just like he.
“Go home,” said Mikael with a hardened tone. “Meet with your father. And ask him.”
He found the weight of Mikael’s eyes too hefty to hold, so he focused on Elise.
“Do not worry about her,” encouraged Paolo. “She can stay until she recovers.”